Oliver Stone still knows how to get people rankled. The Platoon, Savages and Natural Born Killers director reportedly slammed the finale of AMC’s Breaking Bad while promoting his documentary series The Untold History of the United States.
Stone took issue with Breaking Bad as part of a larger critique of cinema violence having become less realistic and more cartoonish over the years. “There’s too much violence in our movies – and it’s all unreal to me,” he said. “I don’t know if you saw the denouement [of Breaking Bad], I happen to not watch the series very much, but I happened to tune in and I saw the most ridiculous 15 minutes of a movie – it would be laughed off the screen.”
In the climactic scene – spoilers, obviously – Walter White parks his car right in front of the clubhouse of a gang of white supremacists. He goes inside, uses a key-chain remote to pop his trunk and drops to the ground. Hiding inside the trunk is a remote-activated machine gun that starts firing away, sweeping back and forth, killing the bad guys inside.
“Nobody could park his car right then and there and could have a machine gun that could go off perfectly and kill all of the bad guys!” Stone said. “It would be a joke. It’s only in the movies that you find this kind of fantasy violence. And that’s infected the American culture; you young people believe all of this s–t. Batman and Superman, you’ve lost your minds, and you don‘t even know it! At least respect violence. I’m not saying don’t show violence, but show it with authenticity. … If people think that bringing a machine gun to your last meeting is a solution to a television series that’s very popular, I think they’re insane. Something’s wrong. It’s not the world we know.”
My take: Stone’s kind of got a point with that scene in terms of realism. It’s not the show’s finest moment. Yet the characters in Breaking Bad are typically so emotionally honest that the show
tends tended to get away with occasional indulgences like that one. And the violence in Breaking Bad very often felt “authentic,” especially compared to nearly every show on TV. Just one example: Hank had a grueling and rare-for-TV arc after his hitmen encounter in season three, showing every step of his painful and arduous recovery process (even in the final season he still had a limp).
Also, Stone perhaps shouldn’t be casting, er, stones at Breaking Bad when his last series – that Untold History project – averaged only 193,000 viewers for first-run episodes when it debuted on Showtime last winter. The Breaking Bad finale peaked with more than 10 million viewers. Clearly, the AMC show was doing something right.